Political divisiveness has become increasingly more strident. Albeit that differences are natural (think yin/yang), politics have become so polarized that moderation and compromises are labeled weaknesses.
The founding fathers were people of differing opinions who nevertheless were able to compromise. Today’s politicians seem to feel required to commit to party policy, no matter how little those policies may actually serve any of their own constituents, fearing the quite real threat of facing a well-financed primary challenge come election day.
Strict obedience to policies established by the vested interests of party elites have reduced moderate voices to whispers. The basic concepts of civility, trust, truthfulness, statesmanship, accountability, and cooperation don’t get even lip service.
But consider the statement, diversity promotes stability. In nature, there are millions of varieties of life-forms living balanced, integrated existences. Certain species actually work together to enable each to thrive in its own way; any nature documentary will show that.
Humans are diverse, and each has opinions on almost any subject. Seven billion people represent at least 7 billion opinions. Opinions tend to be more emotional than well-thought-out. When the media presents opinions they’re usually deliberately crafted to promote political agendas by creating fear and anger in their audiences. Such opinions tacitly encourage violence, not cooperation. We become the agendas we watch or listen to, and accept.
Many practices of our political system could be changed to promote healthy diversity. We could stop partisan gerrymandering; institute open, intraparty primaries or ranked voting; stop disenfranchising voters; revisit the concept of the Electoral College; even consider reorganization of the House of Representatives, each member of which now represents considerably more citizens than ever before, due to population growth; and we could change the “winner take all” method of assigning electoral votes.
Of course, to do any of this, we need to elect more moderate politicians, honest, principled people who are willing to compromise to accomplish goals that benefit all of their constituents, rather than simply follow the party line. This requires the courage to risk attacks by party officials, to respect the dignity of others, to have honesty sufficient to express independent thought and act only after careful thought, and to respect our democratic principles and institutions.
The 2018 elections placed dozens of new and diverse faces in Congress and statehouses throughout the U.S. These congresswomen and men could inspire actual movement on the political front. However, without more open-thinking and courageous politicians throughout the Congress, the necessary cooperation won’t happen. We can only hope there are some moderates willing to run for office, negotiate across the aisle, and challenge the practice of capitulation to policies that actually undermine the lives of ordinary Americans.
I’d like to see politicians give us a balanced budget, not the obscenely ballooning national debt this administration is pumping up. I’d like to see state’s laws actually taking precedence over federal laws, for example, resolving the conflict surrounding cannabis and other drugs. I’d like a limited, non-intrusive government. Limits are necessary to rein in government. I’d suggest limiting lobbyist influence, ICE activities like separating families, imprisoning the adults and misplacing or losing the children, and bureaucrats with too much power. Differences of opinion are here to stay. Different viewpoints reveal new scenes, but fear inhibits the ability to assess the possibilities and drawbacks of those new vistas. Diligent conformity to party policy is willful blindness. Politicians ought to consider empathetically the opinions of others and what they offer. There’s a saying variety is the spice of life. Diversity isn’t only the fun of life, the delicate web of life depends on it.
Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a longtime Comstock resident.